The food: chuchitos, caldos, pupusas, every kind of taco, and a rainbow of colorful tortillas. ¡Qué rico!
The scenery: mountains, beaches, and famous ruins with mangrove rivers leading jungle. Beautiful.
The wildlife: viscous jaguars and scorpions, sweet llamas, and flying squirrels. Alive.
We. Love. Latin America.
So, obviously we want you to come and visit us, but not only that. Let’s plan a summer-long trip. Can you imagine? Sounds great, right? Well, summer is only 5 months away so you have PLENTY of time to pack, update your passport, and book all your hotels. But what about your Spanish?
5 months. Just give us 5 months, and we swear we can get you on the right track right for your trip to Latin America! In fact, you should probably jump over to our latest blog Spanish for Dummies which is a quick guide to get all of your basics and FUNdementals down.
How do you learn ‘Travel Spanish’ in 5 months?
That was the initial pitch. Now comes the ‘How.’ To help you out, we did some investigation. The first was with students from a local English class and we asked them, ‘What advice would you give to travelers who want to learn Spanish in 5 months?’
Oh, the enthusiasm in the ADULT classroom! We had never seen so much enthusiasm even when we brought doughnuts that one time… In the midst of all of the shouts, consejos, and ideas, the most agreed upon methods were:
- Learn key phrases and statements
- Tandem conversation partner
- Practice every day on an application
- Book classes at academies in each country that you visit
Learn key Questions: 6 Q’s
The best thing about travel is that you will most likely be making requests or basic commentary to the native Spanish speakers around you. All of the memory-making is thankfully going to be done with you and your traveling compadres. We trust that you have done the easiest things and booked all of your travel, hotel, and activities before your arrival. However, some of these phrases could possibly help in those areas too.
Learn key Statements: Compliments, Abilities, and Wants
So now that we have all of the questions out of the way, let’s add a little bit of personality to our Spanish for Travelers! Show them what you can do and what you like so you can try to participate in the culture!
Tandem conversation partners:
Woah! All of that Travel Spanish is going to be so useful for you to participate in the culture, advocate for yourself, and travel with such ease. But, what are you going to do when people respond?! Woah! There are so many different kinds of answers for these questions and any other comments that you make. Because of that, we recommend tandem conversation. Bring this list of questions and statements to a native speaker in your own community and pretend you are in the jungle or some other exotic place. You will FOR SURE learn multiple kinds of responses. Check out your local libraries or after school/university programs as well.
If you cannot find a native speaker to help you.
If you cannot find a native speaker to help you through your imaginary jungle – either concrete or full of cobras – we suggest you find recommended online sites like Homeschool Spanish Academy.
Yes, even us at HSA! After all, we are a Spanish academy based in Central America, and all of our teachers are native speakers. Because of this, our classes offer the most most life-like learning experience possible that would help you in your travels! When you get to Guatemala, you could actually say that you have friends here who you have talked to already. Check out our sign-up page to start the tandem conversing NOW!
Practice every day on an application
Tandem conversation, memorizing phrases, and asking questions will really get you far in your Travelers Spanish, but what about vocab and the BASICS? Well, in the midst of our ‘sample advice group,’ there was a HUGE agreement that using applications every day for at least 20 min will help build vocabulary and all of the basics that tandem conversation will not blatantly give you. There was even one native Spanish-speaking student who was learning English AND French on his applications. Because of his experience, he was able to provide great insight. Our top 3 suggestions are:
- Named the best app to learn Spanish by HSA, Duolingo is an interactive way to learn Spanish. Yes, there are tests and quizzes, but there are fun listening, speaking, and visual activities for every learner.
- This is a great application. Not only is it an instant phrasebook full of useful and instantly translated phrases for the country where you are going, but it is also a reliable electronic translator for those SAVE ME IN THE JUNGLE moments.
- Top 4 free Spanish apps of 2019
- Check out our own list of application suggestions! “Maybe you’re looking to start from scratch, or perhaps you are already in Spanish and just need extra support. Well, you’re in luck! We’ve compiled a list of the best Spanish apps of 2019 to learn Spanish for free! Check out which one will work best for you.”
As we talked with our ‘sample group’ of very enthusiastic English students, the final advice that they wanted to give everyone learning Travel Spanish was to keep studying even when you get to your destination. Don’t let all of the awe and wonder of your travels sidetrack you! Also, if you have a question, just ask your teacher. There are so many Spanish academies for travelers all around Latin America. Take Maximo Nivel, for example. You can take classes, have your native teacher show you the culture, and even stay at a local’s home so you can get a true Spanish immersion. How do babies learn a language? By participating to the fullest and eating as many black beans as possible! Why don’t you try it their way?
Alright, travelers! It’s time to get going!
Summer is just around the corner and these next 5 months should give you plenty of time to learn Travel Spanish! As your faithful ‘tips and trip’ advisers in the world of Spanish learning, we are always here to support you. So much so that we are even offering a free trial class with us! We want to help evaluate what your travel Spanish learning needs are and even help to give you a starting point as you work towards your 5-month travel fluency. Click here to sign up for a free class!
Have you ever wondered why Spanish names are so long? As you may have noticed, the names of people in Spanish-speaking countries consist of a first name and two surnames. Traditionally, you will see the first surname of the father followed by the first of the mother. Presently, laws have changed on gender equality and now allow any order, but we normally see the original order. People always use their full name in legal settings. In informal contexts, however, they use their first name and first surname to introduce themselves.
The first name can be simple, such as José (Joseph), or composite such as José Miguel (Joseph Michael). Nevertheless, in the given name, Miguel is not a middle name but is part of the name José Miguel. Contrary to English-speaking countries, the idea of a middle name does not exist and, as such, is very rare to see.
Transmission of Spanish Surnames
The two last names come from what is called a “generational transmission” from both parents. Currently, the two first surnames of each parent are combined. As stated above, the father’s surname is often first while the mother’s surname comes after. Interestingly, the paternal, or father’s, name will eventually eliminate the maternal name of the family line. An example of this is with two parents, Lucía López García and Jorge Rosales Castillo. Their child will most likely use the traditional order and hold a name such as Paola Rosales López. She will marry and her name will change to Paola Rosales Mendoza or Paola Rosales de Mendoza. As you can see, the maternal name has been dropped and replaced by the husband’s name. Nonetheless, the transfer of the father’s surname was not always the norm. Spanish-speaking societies once practiced the transmission of one Spanish surname, choosing between the mother or father.
The Four Categories of Surnames
When looking at Spanish surnames, a clear pattern emerges. History tells us that by the twelfth century, as populations grew, people needed a way to distinguish one name or family from another. They began to follow specific traditions that helped them understand which surname to use. Namely, four types of surnames appeared. They became the origin of most Spanish surnames we see today.
Patronymic and Matronymic Surnames
Patronymic means the surname comes from the father’s first name, while matronymic means it’s from the mother’s name. Now, if you met two men name Juan, you might mix them up. However, by distinguishing who their fathers are, their names suddenly become distinct. The paternal surname was a combination of the man’s father’s name and a suffix meaning “son of”: -ez, -az, -is, -oz (or -es), -as, -os. In other words, someone with the name Juan Fernandez means Juan “son of Fernando”. If he had a son, his name would have been Diego Juanez, Diego “son of Juan.” Given this fact, surnames weren’t at all consistent. Eventually, a specific surname stuck with the family and was passed to future generations. Matronymic surnames are less common, often a result of illegitimate children or a mother of higher noble ranking.
Geographic surnames tell us where the first person with a surname lived. This includes very specific surnames, such as de Soto (from Soto), from families that typically owned land. More general surnames like Iglesias (lived near a church) acted much like nicknames. Similarly, they may refer to what type of land the person lived on. For example, del Valle (from the valley) or de la Vega (from the meadow) depict certain features of the original homeland.
Occupational surnames refer to a person’s job or trade. Two types of occupational surnames are standard and titular. Standard occupational surnames represent a common trade, such as Zapatero (shoemaker) and Barros (an artisan or builder who used clay). Nobility often gave these surnames to the commoners under their rule. Conversely, the nobility used titular occupational surnames that denoted their position. For example, Hidalgo means “nobleman,” and Marques means “marquis.”
Descriptive surnames are less common and much more personal. They refer to a quality, characteristic, or physical trait of a person. It’s worth noting that this type of surname was frequently given to commoners as a form of insult. For this reason, the bulk of these surnames have not survived over time. Those that remain show a fairly neutral trait or a positive attribute. Examples include Bravo (brave), Cano (gray), Cortes (courteous), Delgado (thin), and Orejón (big ear).
Spanish Surnames in Foreign Countries
Entering into a foreign naming system often requires vigilance and necessary changes. One example is when a Spanish person lives under an English naming system. In order to avoid confusion, they may hyphenate their last name, turning Marcela Pérez Rubio into Marcela Pérez-Rubio. In view of the one-surname system used by English-speakers, there may be legal confusion and her name could become Marcela P. Rubio on a government document. This poses a big problem for her identity since, in her home country, her name would be abbreviated as Marcela Pérez R.
Foreign Surnames in Spanish-Speaking Countries
In Spanish-speaking countries, foreign immigrants keep using their cultural naming customs. However, if they choose to obtain citizenship, they must assume a name in the Spanish manner. If the person comes from a culture with a unique family name, they repeat it twice. As a result, an English name “William Stewart Mirren” turns into “William Stewart Mirrén Mirrén.” The law allows a person to adopt the mother’s maiden name if they choose to. Lastly, the Spanish custom connects the first and middle name making it the two first names for legal documents.
Top 50 Most Common Spanish Surnames
The chart below shows the top 50 most common Spanish surnames in Spain. As well, you will see the estimated population of how many people have this particular last name. Take a look at the chart and see how many names you recognize. Do you see which of the suffixes is most common among these names?
Prepositions “de” and “y”
There are times that Spanish surnames include a preposition between the paternal and maternal surnames. Some people choose to use “de” and/or “y” for three main reasons. Firstly, it shows nobility, such as the name of Gabriel de la Cueva y Girón, who was a sixteenth-century nobleman and military leader. Secondly, it denotes location, as is the case for the name Lope Félix de Vega y Carpio (de Vega means “of the meadow”), a famous playwright of undistinguished origin. Lastly, it helps to distinguish between the first name and a surname that could be mistaken for a first name like Antonio Miguel y Morales. In this case, we understand that Miguel is not his second name, but instead the first of his surnames.
Obviously, Spanish surnames give us the chance to learn about a person’s family history. Not only is it fascinating to take a closer look at the meaning of a person’s surname, but it is also educational. By learning how these surnames were created, how they’re used in present day, and how to understand them, we can better comprehend their importance. Furthermore, it allows us to appreciate the complexity of the naming system in Spanish culture.Read More
Spring Break is coming, and you may be thinking about traveling somewhere new. If you don’t yet have a destination in mind, consider Guatemala! People call this small country the land of eterna primavera, or ‘eternal spring’. Guatemalan weather is the perfect spring climate, because of how tropical the country is. There may be some rain, but usually the air is fresh, the sky is blue with a few clouds, and the sun shines without being bothersome. Additionally, there are many different touristic places across the country that fit everyone’s tastes. For example, you can find beaches, volcanoes, Mayan ruins, and the list goes on. Guatemala is the perfect getaway for your Spring Break adventures!
There are so many places you could visit, but I have prepared a list of my top 5 places in the country that you can visit during your Spring Break.
Top 5 Spring Break Destinations in Guatemala
5) San Pedro La Laguna
Guatemala is famous for Lake Atitlán, which is located in the Sololá department. Plenty of people travel to Guatemala during Spring Break just to see this beautiful lake. There are many towns around the lake, but San Pedro La Laguna is the most famous due to its cuisine and multiple places to relax. The variety of restaurants in San Pedro La Laguna is by far the best in Atitlán. There are many exotic places which offer food from other countries, but the best are the ones that offer national food. There are many restaurants and hotels that have a beautiful view of Lake Atitlán and the volcanoes around the lake, so you can enjoy a nice meal with an extraordinary view.
You can also find many coffee shops. You may have already heard about Guatemala because its coffee is famous throughout the world. All the coffee shops and restaurants in San Pedro la Laguna offer coffee that is cultivated by the locals. Make sure to read about all the things you do in San Pedro!
4) Semuc Champey
Semuc Champey is one of the most beautiful natural monuments in Guatemala. It is located in the Alta Verapaz department and is made up of a 300m limestone bridge. Underneath this bridge runs the River Cahabón, which will leave you speechless with its beauty. The river changes colors from green to turquoise to blue because of its crystalline water.
Semuc Champey is attractive to those who enjoy water sports, especially rafting. Many hotels and other companies offer rafting on the river, which is a great way to explore the river.
Another amazing thing to do in Semuc Champey is hiking on the different trails found nearby. Tropical forest surrounds Semuc Champey, and it provides with beautiful sights of local fauna and flora. You won’t want to pass up this opportunity; go ahead and start planning your trip here.
3) Yaxhá National Park
Guatemala is the heart of the Mayan Civilization. There are multiple ruins all throughout the country. The most famous one, and the one you have probably heard about, is Tikal. This ancient city is really beautiful and it has a lot of history involving the Mayans. However, there is another archaeological site in the Petén department that is just as amazing as Tikal, called Yaxhá National Park. This city is just two hours away from Tikal, and it is a secret Mayan city.
Many of the ruins in Yaxhá date from the pre-Columbian Mayan civilization and archeologists are still finding new ruins around the area. Here, you can find Mayan temples, ceremonial sites, sports fields, astronomical observatories, and many other structures built by the Mayans. Plus, an amazing bonus is that you can watch the sunset from the top of one of the Mayan temples. It is such a beautiful experience!
Yaxhá is the best option when visiting Petén during Spring Break. Due to the time of year, Tikal is usually crowded. Yaxhá doesn’t get as crowded because it is not very famous and your experience would be more pleasant. Book your trip to Yaxhá now!
2) La Sierra de los Cuchumatanes
If you are interested in cold weather and hiking activities, Sierra de los Cuchumatanes is the perfect place for you. This is the highest non-volcanic mountain range in Guatemala, and it is located in the Huehuetenango and El Quiché departments. These mountains occupy around 15% of the Guatemalan territory, and because of their altitude, they provide the most amazing sights you will ever see!
The most famous place in Sierra de los Cuchumatanes is the ‘Mirador Juan Diéguez Olaverri’ (see photo above), named after a Guatemalan poet. There are multiple stone engravings with the stanzas he wrote about the mountain range. Additionally, in Sierra de los Cuchumatanes, you can find multiple hiking trails that take you around the mountains. These trails allow you to explore the beautiful flora and fauna that grow in those mountains. If you are interested in booking a hike in los Cuchumatanes, visit this website to get started!
1) Semana Santa in Antigua Guatemala
I really love having Antigua, Guatemala as my number one place to visit during Spring Break because of Semana Santa. Everyone in Guatemala celebrates Holy Week; however, in Antigua, we have one of our most treasured traditions. During Semana Santa, sawdust carpets decorate the streets of Antigua. These carpets are designed to guide the processions. They are made with many colors and show beautiful handmade designs. People dress up and walk around the streets of Antigua carrying figures that represent religious beliefs from the Catholic church.
The whole event is a beautiful feast for the eyes. People participate in processions every day during Semana Santa and tend to decorate not only the streets but also their own houses. So, if you go to Antigua during Semana Santa, you will certainly find every door, window, and street decorated. You will even find small events where locals teach you how to do the sawdust carpets, so you can take part in the tradition and get a taste of Guatemalan culture.
Check out this website for tips on how to make the most out of your trip to Antigua during Semana Santa. Or, if you want to learn more while practicing your Spanish, read this article about Semana Santa!
I hope you find these five places interesting, and that you get to visit at least one of them during your Spring Break. Guatemala is a beautiful country, and it is full of a cultural heritage that can be explored in every touristic place. You only need to visit one place to fall in love with the country, and I hope one of these five places do the trick!
And while you’re visiting, you can practice your Spanish! Locals are very kind to tourists, so don’t be shy to try some Spanish phrases every now and then during your trip. You may practice while you ask for directions or while ordering some food at a restaurant. You will get plenty of opportunities to practice and learn new things. Be sure to study our Spanish for Dummies guide before you go!Read More
My guess is that no matter who you are or where your interests lie, you could probably win the final round of any game show that included famous quotes.
You would not be shaken by “To be, or not to be.” “Houston, we have a problem” would not be a problem.
“Let them eat cake” would be more of a cakewalk than a piece of cake. And, of course, for those who love Toy Story, we all know who has a “snake in their boot.”
But, besides winning game shows, what is the point of quotes? All the phrases listed in your final game show round are famous for a reason; but why? Is it just because we say them all the time, or do we use them to make references that help us sound more intelligent? The easy answer is, of course, always dependent on the user. However, the reality is that quotes are markers of historic events and of the people that have impacted history.
Not convinced? Let’s take a panoramic look at how using Spanish quotes can show us the history and treasures of any Spanish-speaking country. For example, let’s try Guatemala and see what we can find.
Guatemala: In the beginning
“Los secretos mágicos de sus abuelos les fueron revelados por voces que vivieron por el camino del silencio de la noche.”– Polpol Vuh- “Me llamo Rigoberta Menchu y así me nació la Conciencia” 1997 pg 84
“The magical secrets of their grandparents were revealed to them by voices that lived on the path of the night’s silence.”
Every country, culture, and family has its own folklore. The beginning story of the indigenous peoples in Guatemala consists of pre-ancestors who were full of wisdom and lived in the darkness before creation (in other words, the silent paths of the night). The first of our Spanish quotes comes directly from the original text called Polpol Vuh, which is written in the Mayan dialect of ‘Quiche.’ To make a long folklore story short, the grandfathers, after many interesting attempts, created man from corn. This, therefore, pushed the story from creation to consumption.
Guatemala: Surviving and Thriving
“Sembrado para comer es sagrado sustento del hombre que fue hecho de maíz. Sembrado por negocio es hambre del hombre que fue hecho de maíz.” – Miguel Ángel Asturias- “Hombre de Maíz” 1949 pg 73
“(Corn) sown to eat is a sacred sustenance for man who was made from corn. (Corn) sown for business is hunger of man (also) made by corn.”
Today, Guatemala is considered one of the most historically preserved countries in Latin America due to the fact that the indigenous community makes up almost half of the population! As a result, the idea that they are “Hombres de Maiz,” or “Men of Corn,” is a huge part of national pride and survival. This Spanish quote by the brilliant Guatemalan historian, Miguel Ángel Asturias, describes the balance of cultural progression perfectly: honor your culture to remember where you came from, but also use that culture to provide for the future. Speaking of the future…
Guatemala: Leading the future
“Mi padre decía: hay quienes les toca dar sangre y hay a quien le toca dar fuerzas; entonces mientras podamos, demos la fuerza.” – Rigoberta Menchú – “Me llamo Rigoberta Menchú y así me nació la Conciencia” 1997 pg 208
“My father would say: there are those who must give blood and there are some who must give strength; so while we can, let’s give strength.”
It is no secret that Guatemala has had its unimaginable trials. For instance, racism, genocide, and corruption are a few of the obstacles that these “Men of Corn” have had to overcome. However, this game-changing Spanish quote comes from an inspirational indigenous woman named Rigoberta Menchú. She is a leader in political justice, an advocate for women’s rights, and the beautiful result of combined influences from the writings of Polpol Vuh and Miguel Ángel Asturias. In other words, she has been a true leader by inspiring Guatemalans to follow their dreams, which now brings us to present day Guatemala.
Guatemala: Pursuing Passion
“Ya no somos los mismos. Disminuyen los latidos y avanzamos con un respiro agitado; acumulamos cansancio y regresamos cada noche con la voz y los pasos cansados. Dejamos de ser los mismos: ya no vemos lo mismo en el espejo. Somos el álbum lleno de estampas agotamos sus hojas.”
– Jose Carlos Payeras- “Entonces la Vida” 2019 pg 45
“We’re not the same anymore. Our heartbeats decrease, and we continue with restless breath; we accumulate weariness and return every night with our tired voices and steps. We stop being the same: we don’t see the same thing in the mirror anymore. We are an album full of stamps. We wear out all of its pages.”
If you feel like this final Spanish quote is heavy, think again. Looking back on the distance Guatemala has traveled through these four historic voices reflects a people that are always moving forward. From creation to consumption, from revolution to new opportunities: this final quote is from a fresh, self-made author in Antigua, Guatemala. By day, Jose Carlos Payeras is a talented chef at an adored restaurant in Antigua Guatemala, but by night he pursues his most focused passion for writing. As he mentions in the last of our Spanish quotes, we are never the same. That is to say, words form us, direct history, and inspire those around us.
Treasures in Spanish quotes: Now it’s your turn!
So, do you see how much historical ground we covered? We did not do it by just sitting in a lecture or googling ‘Discovering Guatemala.’ By simply following Spanish quotes, we can learn so much about the timelines, voices, and landmark moments. Spanish quotes are gems. Each Spanish-speaking country has treasure chests full of them. Not convinced? Try it with Spain, Argentina, Mexico, and beyond!
To learn more Spanish with these quotes and others, download our Spanish Quotes Study Guide. You will find an analysis of each quote with explanations of certain grammar topics found in each quote. Review it with your student today!
For more tips on how to study Spanish, click here.Read More
You may ask yourself: how are flags fun? Normally, when we learn about different countries, we have to memorize their flags. That’s no fun! But, entering the world of Spanish flags shows us the rich (and fairly bloody) history of each country that they represent. By learning about each Spanish flag’s symbols, we are able to see another world that existed in the past. Indeed, it is a window into the history, politics, and cultural values of each country. With this in mind, let’s take a look at all of the Spanish flags and the meanings behind them.
Where are Spanish Flags Found?
There are at least four countries in the world where Spanish is a significant minority language and should not be entirely ignored. Those countries are Andorra, Belize, Gibraltar, and the United States of America. Clearly, Spanish has had a big impact on these four countries. Even so, we will focus only on the countries that recognize Spanish as an official language.
There are twenty-one countries or territories worldwide that set Spanish as the official language. Listed in order from highest to lowest populations, they are: Mexico, Colombia, Spain, Argentina, Peru, Venezuela, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Cuba, Bolivia, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Paraguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Panama, Uruguay, Equatorial Guinea. So, how does each country tell its own story through the symbols on its flag?
The Symbols of Spanish Flags
Military leader Manuel Belgrano led Argentina to independence against Spain in 1812. He designed the flag to build the image of a new nation. The blue horizontal bands around the central white one stand for the sky that opened between the clouds during the Liberation movement. The protests began in Buenos Aires in May 1810 and, with time, led to the country’s independence. The sol de mayo or “Sun of May” was added as a national emblem in 1818. It is a tribute to the native Incas who worshiped the sun god Inti. They believed he was a direct descendant of the sun.
Uniquely, Bolivia offers us two Spanish flags. The original flag has represented the nation since it was adopted in 1851. It shows three bands of red, yellow, and green. The red represents the brave soldiers of Bolivia, especially during the battles for independence. The yellow stands for the wealth of mineral deposits found in Bolivia’s soil. Finally, the green represents the nation’s rich vegetation. In 2009, the whipala became a national flag to be used in concert with the original flag at all times. The 49 squares of the rainbow are symbols of seven central concepts. Specifically, red represents the Earth and the Andean man, orange society and culture, and yellow energy. Also, the white stands for time, green for natural resources, blue the heavens, and finally violet for the Andean government.
Chile’s tricolor, single-starred banner reveals the values that the country presently holds. The single star represents the powers of the government, which is a representative democracy. It is proudly known for upholding the values of political freedom. The blue behind the star represents the Pacific Ocean, whose waters flank the western shoreline from north to south. The white represents the Andes Mountains, which can be seen from essentially any point from within the country. The red stands out as a reminder of the blood spilled during the war of independence against Spain in 1818.
The Colombian flag shows blue and red with the three yellow horizontal bands symbolizing freedom and justice. Some say that they represent the historically “gold Colombia” that existed before Spain conquered it. The blue stands for loyalty as well as the contact that Colombia makes with two oceans. The red horizontal band stands for the blood of the battles for independence, which stirs a sense of victory and pride among the people. The flag was established in 1861 and has been in use ever since.
The colors of the Costa Rican flag are horizontal bands of red, blue and white. The flag divides into five stripes: red in the center, white on each side of the red, and blue at each lower and upper end. The left side of the red stripe displays the national crest. It is a shield with three mountains that separate the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. On each side of the ridge are sailboats that represent trade with the rest of the world. The seven stars at the top represent the different provinces within the country. Above the shield is a ribbon of blue, on which read the words “Central America”.
The former Spanish empire often had triangles on flags of colonized nations to represent the interests of the Freemasons. They were once considered the most powerful of all secret societies. As a result, Cuba’s flag keeps the triangle as a memory of the power held by this group over its government. The blue stripes symbolize the Spanish military rule over Cuba. The country had tried to claim independence, but until 1898 had gained little freedom. It represents this with the white stripes on the flag that stand for patriotism. By 1898, the Spanish-American war brought Cuba support from the USA and their battle was finally won. The single white star, the Estrella Solitaria, stands for their independence as a nation.
There are only two Spanish flags that are divided into four parts. The flag of the Dominican Republic bears a large white cross as a symbol of its strong religious influence. A Christian-based secret society named La Trinitaria urged on the revolution for independence from the newly-independent Republic of Haiti. The leader of this society was Juan Pablo Duarte, the man who eventually designed the flag that would fly for the first time in 1844. The blue represents liberty, the red is the blood of the national heroes, and white is for salvation. The coat of arms says, “Dios, Patria, Libertad” which means “God, Fatherland, Liberty.” In the very middle of the shield, there is a Bible and a yellow cross. Many people believe that the pages of the Bible open to the Gospel of John 8:32, which states, “Y la verdad nos hará libre” (And the truth will make us free).
Francisco de Maranda, the first national hero of Venezuela, holds a very special place in the history of Ecuador’s independence and flag creation as well. As a strong military general, Maranda viewed South America as a continent that deserved its freedom from Spain. He fought for it in Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador, which formed the confederation of Gran Colombia immediately after achieving independence. The color code has multiple meanings that have evolved over time. Ecuador views the significance of its flag’s colors somewhat differently than the other Gran Colombia countries. Yellow represents both the sun and gold of their ancestors. Blue is the sky and sea of Ecuador as it also celebrates their liberation from Spain. Red holds steady in its symbol for the blood lost by the patriots in their efforts during the revolution.
El Salvador’s flag is divided horizontally into three identical bands. The middle is white while the top and bottom are blue. In the center of the flag is the national emblem. It has a semi-circular pattern of the words “La República de El Salvador en La América Central,” meaning “The Republic of El Salvador in Central America.” In the middle of the circle is a triangle with five volcanoes inside it that overlook the blue waves of the sea. It is a symbolic representation of the five countries that joined together in the United States of Central America. Above them on the staff is a Phrygian cap, a symbol of the struggle for independence. The date inscribed on the emblem, September 15, 1821, shows when El Salvador obtained its independence. The blue stripes represent the waters of the Pacific and the white symbolizes the people’s desire for peace.
Of all the Spanish flags, the only one that originates from Africa belongs to Equatorial Guinea. The flag has a very interesting coat of arms. The silk tree in the middle of the shield praises their independence. In 1968, Spain and a local ruler signed their first peace treaty. Presently, the six stars above the tree represent sovereign parts of the country: five islands off the coast and the mainland. All of these territories occupy space in the Gulf of Guinea. The national motto reads, “Unidad, Paz, Justicia,” meaning “Unity, Peace, Justice”. The colors of the flag tell their own story. The green is the country’s farmland, while the white represents peace and purity. The red color reminds us of the fighters’ sacrifice for freedom. The blue triangle on the hoist represents the sea.
Guatemala’s flag, adopted in 1871, features a bicolor of blue and white vertical bands of identical width with the national emblem placed in the middle. Both the government officials and civilians use the flag with the coat of arms displayed proudly. The creation of the United States of Central America in 1823 established their freedom from the imperial powers of Spain. The blue and white color represents the political bond that these nations once shared. The scroll in the coat of arms shows the date of the country’s independence, September 15, 1821. On top of the scroll sits the Quetzal bird, a symbol of freedom. The two rifles and swords represent war in order to maintain freedom, but the laurel branches around them express a preference for peace. The blue bands represent the two oceans that surround the mainland. Lastly, white signifies purity.
Honduras was once a part of the United States of Central America, along with four other nations (Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua). The people of these nations use a tricolor flag of blue and white horizontal bands of equal width. The country gained independence in 1838; however, the five stars were added to the center of the flag’s blue and white stripes when José María Medina was president in 1866. In the hope that Honduras reunites with the former nations in the future, the five stars of the flag remain united. The blue represents the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, while the white symbolizes integrity and faith.
The design of Mexico’s flag dates back to when the Aztecs first made their way to Mexico and established Mexico City as their capital. The leader of the Aztecs, named Tenoch, had been visited in his dreams by the God of War, who told him to settle only where they saw an eagle perched on a prickly cactus, consuming a serpent. They discovered this sight in a very inhospitable swamp that is today the main plaza of Mexico City. The significance of the colors was changed in 1968, despite having been adopted in 1821. As a result, there are conflicting reports of meaning. Originally, the green vertical band represented independence, the white boasted of Catholic pride, and the red symbolized the union of Americans and Europeans. Now the green represents hope and the white unity of the nation. The red stands for the blood of the national heroes.
Similar to other Spanish flags from nations that were once a part of the United States of Central America, the Nicaraguan flag shows a blue color in its upper and lower bands, and the middle part is white. The official coat of arms sits in the middle of the white stripe. This triangular emblem was established in 1823 and is a symbol of common ground. The five peaks of the volcanoes symbolize the union of the five original member states of Central America. The rainbow on the mountains is a symbol of peace. Lastly, the red Phrygian cap is for the desire of all people for freedom. Due to the rainbow on the flag, Nicaragua is one of two nations in the world to use the color purple.
The Panamanian flag is different from other Spanish flags in Central America due to its shape and color. It displays three colors: white, blue and red. Divided into four small equal rectangles, the first is formed by a white background, in the middle of which there is a blue five-pointed star. The second rectangle on the left is red. The third quarter, bottom right, is blue. The last quarter is white, while a second red star is in its center. In all, this flag has a simple but harmonious style. The two predominant colors are those of the existing political parties in Panama. Blue is the color of the Conservative Party, while red is the Liberal Party. The two parties agreed to make peace, shown by the white color. Panama’s flag shares an image of hope and a promise of peace.
Paraguay is the only country in the world to have two national emblems. One is the coat of arms, displayed on the front. The other is the Treasury Seal, displayed on the back. The three bands of red, white, and blue found on the French flag inspired the design of Paraguay’s flag. Together, the colors represent freedom. Separately, red stands for courage, white for unity, and blue for liberty. Paraguay gained independence from Spain in 1811 and adopted the flag in 1842. Notably, it is one of the oldest Spanish flags in the world. The Treasury Seal reads “Paz y Justicia”, which means “Peace and Justice.”
By 1825, the people of Peru established the flag that they proudly raise in present day. The red color represents the blood shed by the patriots during the revolutionary wars. Similarly, the white represents purity like many other Spanish flags. Peru’s coat of arms is used on the flag when raised by the government for official purposes, while the civil flag does not show it. The shield has three emblems: the top left interior shows an ancestor of the llama, called the vicuña, and stands for freedom, national pride, and heroism. The tree to the right is the cinchona tree whose bark produces quinine, the active ingredient in anti-malaria drugs. The cornucopia seen at the bottom of the shield shows golden and silver coins spilling out of it, referring to the wealth of minerals found in the fertile soils of the country.
The Puerto Rican flag is formed by a blue triangle on the left side. The base of the triangle extends over the entire height of the flag. In the center of the triangle is a five-pointed white star. To the right of the triangle are five horizontal bands of the same height. Since Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, the flag was inspired by the colors and design of the American flag. The blue color symbolizes the coastal waters that surround the country. It also represents the blue sky. As for the red color, it represents the color of the blood shed by the brave warriors of the country. White shows the universal color of peace. Also, it expresses victory and freedom. Lastly, the triangle illustrates the governing branches that are the executive, legislative and judiciary.
The Spanish flag shows a monarch who sought to own as much land as possible. There are two red horizontal bands around a thick central yellow band where the coat of arms sits on the hoist side. In the very center of the coat of arms, there is a shield that houses six distinct coats of arms. Each stands for a conquered territory. The pillars on each side of the shield represent the Straits of Gibraltar where the limit of the known world was thought to exist. For this reason, the red ribbon around the pillars once read “Ne plus ultra,” which means “Nothing more beyond”. Once Christopher Columbus discovered the New World, the flag changed the wording to “Plus Ultra,” or More Beyond. On top of the pillars are two crowns, one is for the Imperial Crown and the other the Royal Crown.
Uruguay has a violent history as the subject of war between Spain and Brazil. In 1828, Uruguay achieved independence from the two great powers that fought over it. The flag’s design is a blend of Manuel Belgrano’s blue and white colors for Argentina’s flag and the flag of the USA. It is clear that these two nations had an effect on the patterns of Uruguay’s flag. The blue and white stripes represent the former nine departments of Uruguay that fought for independence. The sol de mayo, the “Sun of May,” stands for the joy the people felt when they gained freedom from Spain and Brazil.
The people of Venezuela adopted the flag in 1836 after a long battle against Spain. The first national hero to lead Venezuela to independence was Francisco de Maranda. He is the revolutionary credited for the design of the Venezuelan flag. Maranda fought both within Venezuela and overseas in Spain. He began his military journey as a soldier in favor of Spain, while he secretly held plans to overthrow their government in South America. Eventually, Maranda joined another national hero of Venezuela, Simón Bolívar, in order to fight the powers of Spain inside Venezuela. The flag speaks of revolution through its colors. Namely, the blue represents independence from Spain, the red signifies courage of war, and the 8 stars refer to the provinces that supported the revolutionary efforts.
A Spanish Flag: Worth a Thousand Words
As can be seen, a quick look at the symbolic nature of each flag will reveal interesting facts about each country’s history and values. In fact, learning about the Spanish flags is an excellent first step to understanding their origins and sources of national pride. Ultimately, flags are the most important symbol that a country can use to express its uniqueness.Read More